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TRAI looks to check misuse of recalled numbers

“Providing a revocation list is important to check misuse. If a consumer surrenders a number, the transactional one-time password will go to the original number. There was no way of redirecting and the new user may gain access to another’s identity,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Ram Sewak Sharma told ET.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 15, 2019, 10.39 AM IST
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New Delhi: The telecom regulator has said its direction asking mobile phone operators to regularly submit lists of surrendered numbers is aimed at preventing misuse because the 10-digit numbers are reassigned to other users after six months.

“Providing a revocation list is important to check misuse. If a consumer surrenders a number, the transactional one-time password or OTP will go to the original number. There was no way of redirecting and the new user may gain access to another’s identity,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman Ram Sewak Sharma told ET.

The move, according to the top official, is aimed at protecting the interests of consumers. Institutions such as banks and post offices would also be able to cross-check number validity with operators to mitigate security risks.

Last month, the regulator asked Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone Idea and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. to provide monthly data on disconnected mobile numbers to enable institutions and utility service providers to update their databases.

Sharma said that due to the absence of new numbers, telcos have no choice but to reuse them.

Utility service agencies and departments will thus be able to easily update their records with a consumer’s new mobile number in the event of any change, which would eventually prevent any attempt at misuse.

Institutions, according to the regulator, should not initiate any suo motu action but at least flag numbers based on the Mobile Number Revocation List to discourage transactions on a consumer’s disconnected mobile number.

“We have asked telecom operators to provide a digitally signed list. Trai will re-arrange it in numerical order and that can be downloaded for appropriate usage,” Sharma said, adding that the rationale for sorting the data was to conceal how many subscribers opted out of a telco’s network.

The watchdog, which separately publishes telephone subscription data, said Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel together lost almost 5 million users in September, while arch-rival Reliance Jio added close to 7 million subscribers. India had more than 1.17 billion wireless subscribers in September, a 0.23% increase from a month earlier.

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